WITH just a week to go before the start of the National Hill Climb Championships, 2008 Champion Matt Clinton will be hoping for an improvement in form as he continued his preparations with two ninth-place finishes in Matlock.
The Kenilworth rider travelled to Derbyshire to compete in the annual double-header, which included a shortened version of the upcoming Championship race.
There were damp conditions for the morning Riber Climb, which was a relatively simple and easy ascent for the first part of the race before finishing with a 25 per cent slope.
Even in dry conditions, Riber is not really a suitable climb for Clinton’s fixed-wheel bike with the varying gradients and steep corners taking their toll.
The fixed wheel put paid to a good ride for Clinton who finished in 3:43.08 which was ten seconds slower than his best time on the climb.
“I knew that the course didn’t suit fixed, but I gave it a go anyway,” said Clinton. “Riber’s a bit too technical for me, I’ve never won here, so really it’s a nemesis course for me.”
This would place him in a slightly disappointing ninth-place with Championship favourite Joe Clark storming to a win in 3:17, which was a new course record.
There were brighter conditions for the second Bank Road event, which was a straight ramp out of Matlock town centre and does not hold the technicalities of Riber.
The race conditions were much more suited to Clinton and were similar to his 2008 triumph, but this time around with a headwind blowing down the climb, the Kenilworth rider chose to use a smaller gear.
Clinton was well within contention on the bottom half of the climb but as the road steepened past halfway, the riders felt the force of the wind and Clinton struggled to turn even this smaller gear than normal.
A time of 1:57.08 placed Clinton ninth for the second time in one day, with Joe Clark finishing almost ten seconds ahead to take another win.
“I’m surprised how hard Bank Road was,” Clinton added. “It’s never been easy, but I’ve always used a harder gear.
“I’m glad I rode as I’ve decided to opt for gears again for the National. If this had been it, I’d have regretted being on fixed, you have to make a choice on gear at the start and deal with it.
“With gears, you can make that choice as you’re riding, you’ve more choice on a ‘get-out-gear’ and more options to accelerate if needed. My Trek Emonda SLR is super-light anyway, so gears or fixed it doesn’t make a huge amount of different to the weight.”